“I only want an agency that has all their capabilities in-house!”

An oft demanded requirement of marketers when looking for a new marketing services firm.

Problem is there aren’t that many firms out there that do an excellent job of doing it ALL.

What is critical in looking for an agency that can bring a specialized experience base to the table (e.g. digital media planning & buying, back-end web development, PR) is making sure that there is solid integration and alignment – regardless of whether the expertise is in-house or outside the organization.

Simply having a “strategic partner” isn’t good enough.  Every agency has one.

What’s key is how well those two partners work together.

And how well versed the lead agency is in the space that the strategic partner operates in.

If the strategic partner has to do all the talking and the lead agency doesn’t understand what they’re doing and can’t fully integrate their activities and way of thinking into the bigger picture of what they’re doing for you, that’s a problem.

So what do you do?  And how do you figure this all out?

When you’re researching firms, ask them the following…it will help you sort out  how lock-step these two firms are (and/or help you assess the degree to which an internal team that carries the expertise is working in unison with the rest of the agency – or if they are operating in the proverbial silo):

  1. Where is this “strategic partner” located relative to your firm?
  2. How many accounts have you worked together on?
  3. Talk to me about how you get involved in their efforts.
  4. Who takes the lead?  You or them?
  5. How does your process work when you are combining efforts to work with a client?
  6. How long have you been working together?
  7. What types of projects/challenges have you worked together on?  Anything like ours?

I’m sure there are others you can probe…but this should give you a good starting point from which to decide the value of the agency you are considering and the extent to which a firm is right for you.